We are equipped to handle even those patients whose oxygen saturation has dropped to below 70, say organisers
Shanti Sardar, 29, is lying on a bed at the very spot where she comes with her family every autumn to join the crowds in admiring the idols of Goddess Durga and her children. She’s sharing this familiar space with eight strangers, all of whom have tested positive for COVID-19 and are, at the moment, undergoing treatment in this makeshift hospital.
“I miss my two children. One of them is 11 and the other seven. I have never lived without them this long. I specially missed them yesterday — my birthday. Otherwise the stay in this place has been fine. They should be releasing me in a day or two,” said Ms. Sardar, who lives in a slum in Kolkata’s Golf Garden area, barely a 10-minute walk away from the facility, and who tested positive on May 10.
“When not feeling too tired, I keep myself busy with Facebook and WhatsApp, or talk to the dadu (elderly man) on the next bed. He doesn’t seem to have a family because nobody ever enquires about him or brings him anything,” she said.
It was her brother — a sanitation worker — who suggested that she immediately isolated herself and got admitted to this new ‘hospital’ that had opened that very day. Fortunately for Ms. Sardar, who works as a domestic help in several homes in south Kolkata, she found a place in this nine-bed facility, which is none other than the popular, 1965-built Atalanta Club.
Atalanta is the typical neighbourhood club, which in normal times holds Durga Puja and various other cultural events, and which has now turned into a full-fledged COVID-19 facility. “We are possibly the first club in the whole of India, and not just Kolkata, to turn into a critical care unit and not just an isolation centre,” said Rajeev Hariharan, general secretary of the club.
“We have four nurses and two ayahs attending to the patients round the clock. A doctor visits us every day. We are equipped to handle even those patients whose oxygen saturation has dropped to below 70; we have 15 oxygen cylinders at the moment, and we have been stocking cylinders for 30 years now, for use in cases of emergency,” Mr. Hariharan said.
Saying that the facility was a response to the call of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who recently urged puja committees to help in the fight against COVID-19, Mr. Hariharan said the club intended adding at least five more beds in the coming days.
“All the expenses are being borne by the Rotary Club and by our members, who add up to around 350. Besides, we have been home-delivering food — free of cost — to over 100 COVID-19 patients daily for more than a month now, which is being sponsored by the 1988 batch of Don Bosco students. If people don’t help people now, then when?” he said.